The End of Water

Sasha Abramsky’s “Life on the Wrong Side of the Drought” [August 3/10] is excellent in many ways. His description of people in poverty who suffer from lack of water is priceless.

But alack! He undermines his article with one gargantuan and egregious omission: animal agriculture. California’s meat and dairy industries suck up 47 percent of the state’s water. It’s a staggering amount used for livestock: 4.8 trillion gallons per year, drop by drop by drop. But Abramsky doesn’t drop one word about factory farming in his article. That’s a very huge elephant he’s ignoring.

Gene Gordon
walnut creek, calif.

The State of California should start aggressively enforcing the public-trust doctrine, a well-established common-law principle that imbues the state with a fiduciary duty to protect public resources (e.g., water) from being wasted or damaged. It is the public-trust doctrine that saved Mono Lake from being drained by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the ’80s. Three years into the worst drought in 1,200 years, the public-trust doctrine can and must prevent wealthy corporate farms and frackers from sucking dry and contaminating the aquifers that Californians depend on for their drinking water.
Erica Etelson

This is possibly the best piece I’ve seen so far on the California drought. So many people are in total denial as long as they don’t see the photos of dead orange groves, the Sierra reservoirs dry, etc. I’m a native of Southern California and have seen the pattern over my 57 years; this is far beyond anything in the past.
Walter Pewen

A Nuclear Double Standard

While many of the points raised in the editorial “Breakthrough With Iran” [August 3/10] are well stated, there is a fundamental aspect that is missing with regard to nuclear proliferation. It is essential to put into perspective that the United States has the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, and I don’t believe that our government allows the regular inspections that it now demands of Iran. Meanwhile, Israel—the only country in the Middle East that has its own nuclear weapons—doesn’t even acknowledge their existence, much less permit inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

How can the United States demand all these restrictions on other nations’ nuclear development when America is the only nation to have ever used these weapons, unleashing unspeakable, horrific destruction on the Japanese people?

For other nations to seek to develop nuclear weapons in the face of the existing stockpiles, including the known Israeli arsenal, only seems understandable. So, until the existing nuclear nations acknowledge the overriding need to eliminate these weapons from their own arsenals and actively work to achieve that end, there will continue to be nations that seek to develop them.

Mike Stein
new york

Sharing the Austerity

Here’s a thought inspired by Sarah Leonard’s “Ideological Bankruptcy” [August 3/10]: After World War I, Georges Clémenceau forced austerity on Germany, leading to the enormous inflation of the early 1920s and the unintended consequence of Hitler’s rise to power. After World War II, the Soviet Union enforced austerity on East Germany, whereas Harry Truman followed the Wilsonian concept and introduced the Marshall Plan to rebuild West Germany. Germany is now the greatest supporter of austerity. Austerity should be shared. Therefore, I suggest the following steps to help Greece and Germany come to terms:

§ The pension contributions of all German civil servants in the former Western Zone should be contributed to the pension funds of the Greek government.

§ All elected officials in Germany should have their salaries reduced by 25 percent, and those funds should be contributed to the Greek central government.

§ Angela Merkel, the greatest advocate of austerity, should have her salary and pensions reduced by 50 percent, and all those funds should go to the Greek central government.

§ All German and European-based international banks that lent to the Greek government, causing the current crisis, should forgive these debts, and all top executives who approved the loans should have their salaries reduced by 59 percent. Also, all bonuses should be contributed to the Greek general fund.

I am sure many Greeks would agree with this as properly sharing austerity. Angela “Clémenceau” Merkel should certainly agree.

David Dawdy
san francisco

Amend This!

In her article “A Better Roe v. Wade?” [July 20/27], Katha Pollitt talks about the 19th Amendment and the 14th Amendment but fails to mention the most relevant one: the 13th Amendment. No man will ever be forced to grow a fetus within himself; no woman should be either. This is a form of unpaid servitude: having one’s body taken over so that another can derive sustenance from it. If one wants a baby, it is an act of love; if one does not, it is a horror story.
Marie Cobb
merritt island, fla.

Katha Pollitt writes that marriage equality’s time has come “even in Ireland.” No doubt it was more deadline pressure than ill will at work, and therefore just a rhetorical flourish, but Pollitt does seem to be availing herself of what Calvin Trillin has elsewhere described as the “sort of easement” that “a lot of New Yorkers who think of themselves as people of unshakable tolerance take” when it comes to the Irish.

Ireland was the first—and remains the only—nation to submit marriage equality directly to its electorate. Every major political party supported a vote to embed the principle in the country’s Constitution, and on May 22, the voters endorsed the idea rather resoundingly: 62 to 38 percent.

Thus, “led by Ireland” might more accurately have described the rising status of marriage equality in the world.

Steve McFarland
brooklyn, n.y.


In “The Water Belongs to the People” (August 3/10), a sidebar titled “Tapped Out” was intended to illustrate the “average monthly water rate in major US cities.” But the phrase was somewhat misleading; the figures actually showed the combined water, sewage, and storm-water costs for households in major US cities, not just the water rate.